What is Globalization? Is it Always a Good Thing?
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If we look around, we will see that most of our clothes were made in China, we choose to buy American iphones, Korean PCs, Japanese fridges, German cars. We like or do not like Italian pizza, Mexican taco, French wine. More than that, if a T-shirt was sewed in China, it is a matter of course that it was made of Thai cotton, transported to our country on a Canadian vessel with Philippine crew, and sold by an Indian salesman to a tourist from Australia. All this is the evidence of globalization which can be described in simple language as cooperation, interaction and intercommunication between different countries in different fields, including politics, economics, culture etc. There is more to globalization than just import and export. People can travel all over the world, share ideas, adopt foreign practices, collaborate with each other. They got fast access to scientific data from all over the world, have better opportunities, more choices. Nevertheless, every now and then we observe anti-globalization actions of many thousands of people, and among specialists there are people who are not so optimistic about globalization process. That is why it is so interesting to know what arguments the anti-globalists give.
To find out this fact we should start with a bit of history. It is logical that the beginning of globalization is closely associated with great technological changes in the second half of the nineteenth century when, due to industry mechanization, the output of goods had so increased that rich countries had to adopt free trade as a policy (Srinivasan et al 2002).
After World War II it became apparent that international trade and cooperation cannot develop without centralized control. That is why in 1944 Bretton Woods Conference took place in the United States. This conference led to establishing of such organizations as International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (at present World Bank), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which were replaced by World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995.
As the developed and the developing countries got more and more interdependent, and collapse in one economic system could bring to unfortunate results in other countries, the goals such as regulation, stabilization and assistance were established in these three powerful organizations. The IMF solves international finance problems, stabilizing exchange rates and providing financing to its members with economic difficulties. The WTO aims to remove tariffs and barriers and make the world market free. The World Bank, in its turn, was established to help poor countries, to struggle with poverty and to narrow the gap between the developed and the developing countries. Globalization was heartily greeted because “everyone was supposed to be a winner – those in the developed and the developing world. Globalization was to bring unprecedented prosperity to all” (Stiglitz 2006).
Years went by and much has changed. Some countries managed to improve their situation, while the other ones did not succeed in it. But it is obvious that eminently developed countries enjoy the benefits of globalization. International corporations enrich themselves, excluding small companies. Financial crises occur regularly and there are about 2 billion people around the world who live on less than $2 a day. On the one hand, globalization cannot bring positive results to countries with corrupt state apparatus and risk-taking financial systems as they themselves put the brake on their economies. On the other hand, former chief economist of the World Bank, professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, maintains: “The rules of the game have been largely set by the advanced industrial countries—and particularly by special interests within those countries—and, not surprisingly, they have shaped globalization to further their own interests. They have not sought to create a fair set of rules, let alone a set of rules that would promote the well-being of those in the poorest countries of the world” (Stiglitz 2006).
For justice sake, it should be put on record that the professor has nothing against globalization itself, and he believes that it can bring benefits to everyone. He criticizes the way globalization is being managed.
There are a lot of people holding Stiglitz’s views. They are convinced that rich countries, or definite corporations in these countries, are supervising all global processes in the world and their only purpose is enrichment, even at the cost of poor nations. This is the reason why every G-8 Summit is accompanied by mass protests and rioting.
It is also believed that most advantages of globalization have so-called dark sides. Developed trade routes provide opportunities for drug dealers to distribute drugs all over the world. World tourism is very famous nowadays but it also gives way to spreading of infectious diseases. Technological revolution provided us with different gadgets and the Internet, creating entirely new ways for communication and interaction. But, at the same time, it made spreading of deadly, extremist ideologies possible. And even terrorism became international, which made our world today more dangerous. (Steven Weber et al 2007). Globalization is frequently criticized recently and it has got new challenges to respond to, but we should not forget that the ideal way of world development had never existed.
So far, we have been discussing economic globalization. But, as it was mentioned in the introduction, international interaction takes place in many areas and among them is culture. For many people their national culture is very important and they are ready to resist globalization in case it will threaten their cultural values. The problem is that it is still not known what negative or positive consequences the influence of globalization can have. Some believe that one culture will become dominant in the future and all the others will either merge or disappear. Others consider that cultural exchange can help to create multi-cultural “global village” and people will be able to communicate freely, without prejudice to any culture. But these are just assumptions. Now in many countries it is believed that they can lose their language because of foreign cultural intrusion. Their governments started implementing different programs trying to remove the use of foreign words. For example, French speaking Quebec obliged immigrants to receive their college education in French, and large-sized businesses were made to conduct their transactions in French (Culture and Globalization 2013). It is already a form of cultural protest – protection of culture from globalization.
And one more item to be touched upon in this essay is environment. In this field we also can record some negative impact. Overusing of natural resources due to increased demand leads to deforestation, overfishing, destruction of ecosystems in the mining operation areas. Besides, problems of pollution and global warming become particularly acute and they are also affixed to globalization. Nowadays international corporations are encouraged to take steps in protecting the environment and improving the use of resources, but they are too profit-oriented yet to improve the situation essentially.
Globalization is a new and higher stage of development. It opens up new opportunities and new choices for both micro- and macroeconomics. It provides us with technological novelties and many people cannot imagine even one day of their life without phone calls, internet connection or TV. People from different nations became closer to each other and intercultural communication was always useful and instructive.
Certainly, with the course of time, globalization has to handle new and new challenges: the gap between rich and poor tends to become wider, financial crises still threaten the world economy, different nations are afraid of losing their cultural values, new problems, such as international terrorism, global warming, drug traffic, require quick and efficient response. But we should not forget that our world is not ideal and all the problems cannot be solved right away. At the same time, it is very difficult to meet the demands of everyone. On the one hand, poor people in some developing countries can be ready to accept pollution or deforestation for the sake of stable income for their families. On the other hand, there are people who are ready to give all their money to save nature at least in a small region.
Globalization is just another stage of our evolution. A lot of responsible actions are to be taken and certain changes in world management are to be made. It is important to note that more and more specialists all over the world start considering globalization questions, provoking numerous discussions on this subject, and anti-globalization movements, in capacity of the adverse party, can contribute greatly to the problems solution.